17 April 2020

Labour leader Keir Starmer says Government appears in 'limbo' during crisis during PM's absence

Labour leader Keir Starmer says the Government has not made decisions quickly enough during the current crisis while the Prime Minister has been absent.

Starmer told the BBC's coronavirus podcast: “I think that throughout this they've struggled with taking decisions quickly enough.

“The other factor though, I think, is we all know that the Prime Minister has been in hospital. 

“We've all been pleased to see that he's come out and is feeling better. And it feels as though they've been in a position, probably for a week or 10 days now, where it's been difficult for the Government to make big decisions. And I think there's a bit of that lying behind this as well.

“I suspect, although I don't know, that Dominic Raab is just reluctant - he probably does know that it's time for an exit strategy - but he's probably reluctant to sign it off without the Prime Minister and I think there's a bit of that in the mix.”

However, Transport Secretary Grant Sharpps hit back at the comments.

He said: "I was surprised to see that being said for the simple reason that yesterday alone I attended Cabinet, I attended the Cobra [meeting]...I attended two or even three of the cabinet subcommittees that are making all of the day to day decisions.

"It's simply not the case that everything's on standstill.

"There would be no difference to those decisions because we have been guided by, as I keep saying, the scientists and the medical advice, whether or not the PM had been in the room or not in the room in this instance because this is a disease which does not look to politicians to decide how to respond, it responds to science.

"So that's not the case at all and I hope we can continue withy the very impressive cross-party and indeed national effort with this virus and not turn it into those kind of discussions."

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also rejected Starmer's comments: "I don’t know that that’s fair. I think we’re all right now struggling with unprecedented circumstances, and we’re trying to plot a way through it.”

Starmer has called on the Government to set out its exit strategy publicly.

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox